State News

No Longer a Presidential Candidate, Edwards Looks Toward Future

Posted January 30, 2008

— Ten years ago this week, a trial lawyer named John Edwards jumped impatiently into public life. A political rookie, he filed to run for U.S. Senate.

He tapped a personal fortune earned in the courtroom to beat a Republican incumbent, then told friends at a New Year's Day party near the end of his term that he would pass on a re-election campaign to seek the White House instead.

He lost, first in trying to be the Democratic nominee, then as a candidate for vice president, but never really stopped running. He lost again Wednesday, dropping out of the race after failing to win any of the Democratic party's first four nominating contests.

"It was a fast rise," said Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked with Edwards during his winning 1998 Senate campaign. "Yesterday he was going full tilt, and now he's out."

But Edwards exits only after winning a pledge from his rivals to "make ending poverty central to their campaign." It is a sign – much like his decision to make his first campaign a run for the Senate, and then to leave it for a presidential campaign after a single term – that Edwards intends to remain in public life, even if not in public office.

"I think he will continue to play a strong political role," said adviser Kate Michelman, a former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "He's got a big future in terms of his continued mission on the issues that have become his life work. It's just that the next phase of his life on those issues has yet to unfold."

No longer a candidate, Edwards now faces decisions about that next phase of his life and the role North Carolina will play in his future. The near-term focus is sure to be family: Edwards is the father of three children, and his wife, Elizabeth, is fighting a recurrence of breast cancer.

His family joined him Wednesday in New Orleans, where he ended his campaign in the same hurricane-ravaged city where it began in December 2006. He returned to North Carolina on Wednesday night, and it appears the state will continue to be Edwards' base. He sold his tony Georgetown home in Washington where he lived while in the Senate, replacing it with a large estate not far from Chapel Hill.

"It seems like he's tied to North Carolina and this wouldn't be a bad base for him to operate from even at the national level," said David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College in Raleigh. "I don't see him moving to Hollywood and being part of a glitzy lifestyle."

Relatively young at 54, Edwards has a host of long-term options, although he didn't offer any specifics about his future on Wednesday.

Edwards said last week he had no interest in again running as a vice-presidential nominee, and he failed to make an impact in his home state while on the Democratic ticket in 2004. President Bush easily won North Carolina's 15 electoral votes.

Also unlikely is another run for Senate. There are already several Democrats running this year to challenge GOP incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Edwards beat Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth in 1998 by running as a moderate Democrat, but he has moved to the left as a candidate for the White House in 2008.

"Once you run for president twice and have lost, it's not likely that you'll run again for any public office," Pearce said.

Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll, said voters who elected Edwards to his single term also might also be wary of a politician who so quickly moved on from North Carolina.

Edwards didn't immediately endorse either of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. But it's possible he could land a position in the cabinet of a Democratic president, especially if he later helps the ultimate nominee win in November.

"I think he'd make an outstanding attorney general if he were interested," state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Meek said.

Whatever his role, Edwards made it plain that he plans to remain focused on poverty. Ten years ago, on the day he filed to get on the ballot in his first run for office, he pledged to run a "people's campaign."

"I've never run for public office before, so maybe I'll make a political mistake in the months ahead," he said on Jan. 26, 1998. "But one mistake I'll never make, in this campaign or in the Senate, is to forget where I come from and who I represent."

On Wednesday, ending what may be his last campaign, Edwards pledged to keep fighting for the people, calling it the "cause of my life."

"This son of a mill worker is going to be just fine," Edwards said. "Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine."


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  • haggis basher Feb 1, 2008

    "Plus they are screwing the lower to middle working folks out $100 so they can give the rich money."
    Much as I would like the extra money.....this is a REBATE not a gift. The "Rich" pay the vast majority of federal taxes, the poor pay zero (in fact get given "credits" ie money). If you want welfare, fine but be honest about it. I suppose technically since all this money will be borrowed it really is a loan, we will have to pay it back sooner or later :)

  • haggis basher Feb 1, 2008

    "Glad Elizabeth doesnt have you as a support system."
    Perhaps. The 5 year survival rate for stage 4 is only 20%. Not odds that I'd want to be wasting my time on an ego trip. If she beats the odds then nothing is lost, if not those few years will have be more precious than all the "glitz" of a wannabe President.

  • colliedave Jan 31, 2008

    is to forget where I come from and who I represent."

    Me, Myself, and I. If I really cared about the poor do you think I would spend my own money on fixing the problem or letting them visit my crib on my private island.

    is to forget where I come from and who I represent."
    ME, MYSELF, and I

  • ratherbnnc Jan 31, 2008

    I hate politics in general. I dont care what party you are. I just read on CNN that the Senate has cut the rebate check proposel to $500 single and $1000 married. And is giving the rich rebates. That is such a crock. That tacked on 50 more billion dollars for a total of $200 billion. The house had $150 billion. Plus they are screwing the lower to middle working folks out $100 so they can give the rich money. This country has some serious problems for electing idiots like these.

    Ummm.. Where did you get your information from? The Senate hasnt passed anything yet. Its only in Committee and probably will not be voted on until after Super Tuesday. Even if they do, Bush can always veto it to keep it in line with the House Version.

  • Libandproud Jan 31, 2008

    The other driver was likely following tire tracks in the snow. I've actually been guilty of that in poor visibility weather (when I should have been at home).

  • 68_polara Jan 31, 2008

    Here's one for you. I have a friend that was in an automobile that ran off the road and hit a tree at night when it was snowing. Just after the impact, when they thought it was over, a suburban rear ended them. The other driver followed their car right off the road in the storm and plowed right into them. Thankfully they were fine. Odd huh?

  • Libandproud Jan 31, 2008

    "Accidents happen."

    Agreed, and that's what we pay insurance premiums for...deer or careless driver. My point is, it took a lawyer to accomplish what should have been an routine claim. I just think we've unfairly demonized an entire profession that would probably not exist if people and corporations behaved ethically and responsibly.

  • 68_polara Jan 31, 2008

    Sorry for your wife's injures, and I mean that. There are times when a good lawyer is needed. However, your wives plight isn't as common as the ambulance chasers suing for "neck pain" after a bumper thumper. In general they have earned their well deserved reputation.

  • doodad Jan 31, 2008

    Libandproud, your situation is very unfortunate and I do not mean to diminish it, but the same results could have happened if a deer had run out in front of you. Accidents happen. Had the driver been drunk, I would say sock it to him.

  • Tidbit Jan 31, 2008

    The Real Story - John Edwards staff approached him about an appiontment conflict. If elected - the inaugural day would interfere with a pre-scheduled hair appointment.